UCLA vs. Colorado: Will Bruins play a part in Karl Dorrell getting fired again?

·5 min read
Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell stands on the sideline
Colorado, under former UCLA coach Karl Dorrell, has been outscored 128-30 on the way to its 0-3 start this season. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

UCLA might be able to do something unprecedented Saturday — fire Karl Dorrell for a second time.

The Bruins wouldn’t actually pull the trigger, of course, but they could certainly hasten the dismissal of the Colorado coach who needs an ice bath every time he rises from a seat.

UCLA fans are painfully familiar with Dorrell’s shortcomings based on his five-year run to nowhere in Westwood. Great guy, but, boy, is his offense boring. His defense was so bad in 2005 that its players absorbed a halftime tirade from an unlikely source — offensive coordinator Tom Cable.

Buffaloes fans are seeing what can happen when you combine Dorrell’s coaching with limited talent. Colorado has been outscored 128-30 on the way to its 0-3 start, forcing athletic director Rick George to address swirling frustration in a statement that also included some rare bulletin-board material from a winless team.

“Starting this Saturday,” George wrote, “we hope we all will enjoy a home victory over UCLA.”

How cathartic that would be for Dorrell against the team that sacked him in 2007. Oddsmakers aren’t counting on it, making the Bruins 21½-point favorites even though the home team has won the last seven games in the series.

Here are five things to watch when UCLA faces Colorado at 11 a.m. PDT Saturday at Folsom Field in a game broadcast by Pac-12 Network:

Feeling Buffaloed

Minnesota receiver Chris Autman-Bell reacts after a completion against Colorado on Sept. 17 in Minneapolis.
Minnesota receiver Chris Autman-Bell reacts after a completion against Colorado on Sept. 17 in Minneapolis. (Stacy Bengs / Associated Press)

So how bad are things in Boulder?

Colorado can’t decide between its three scholarship quarterbacks, two of which have struggled while the other has barely played. Meanwhile, a walk-on running back might have been the team’s top player last weekend during a 49-7 loss to Minnesota.

Redshirt freshman Charlie Offerdahl ran for 55 yards in eight carries, generating the third-most yards gained by a walk-on in school history, and it was the only feel-good story of a miserable day for the Buffaloes.

Colorado is almost equally bad in total offense (ranking No. 127 nationally) and total defense (No. 119), meaning a bizarre sequence of good fortune would have to occur to put the Buffaloes in position for an upset. But the Bruins said they weren’t notching a victory in their minds before kickoff.

“We’re taking this like we’re playing Alabama,” UCLA linebacker Darius Muasau said.

Run, Bruins, run?

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet tries to avoid a tackle by Bowling Green safety Patrick Day.
UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet tries to avoid a tackle by Bowling Green safety Patrick Day. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Ralphie, the live Colorado mascot who briefly roams the field before each game here, might not be the only one to run free Saturday.

The Buffaloes are giving up 348 yards per game on the ground, ranking last among the 131 Football Bowl Championship teams. Opponents are averaging 6.9 yards per carry against Colorado, raising the question: Why would anyone ever throw against this team?

Colorado’s defense presents a chance for UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet and his backups to have a field day after failing to dominate against South Alabama last weekend. True freshman T.J. Harden appeared set to return based on his participation in practice this week after missing the last game for unspecified reasons.

About those cushions …

UCLA coach Chip Kelly gives a thumbs up as he enters the Rose Bowl
UCLA head coach Chip Kelly gives a thumbs up as he enters the Rose Bowl against Alabama State. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

UCLA coach Chip Kelly acknowledged that miscommunication resulted in those large cushions his defensive backs continually gave receivers last weekend, leading to frightening flashbacks of the way the Bruins’ defense had played in previous seasons.

“In one of those situations the other day we called for press, but the corner wasn’t in press,” Kelly said, “so just really they’ve got to understand why we called press — it was a third-and-medium situation and we don’t want to be 10 yards off on third and medium, we want to be up a little closer to our work, but that’s a process you learn once you start playing games.”

Speed it up, coach?

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson points after the Bruins' win over Alabama State on Sept. 10 at the Rose Bowl.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson points to a fan after the Bruins' win over Alabama State on Sept. 10 at the Rose Bowl. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

UCLA has never run anything resembling Kelly’s Oregon blur offense, but the Bruins have increased their tempo on some drives. The pleasing results prompted a smile from quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson this week when asked if the faster pace made the offense more effective.

“I mean, you know what you’re going to get on defense,” Thompson-Robinson said. “They’re not going to go out there and run a bunch of blitzes and a bunch of coverages, it’s tempo and they’ve got to line up as fast as possible, so you’re going to get real vanilla looks, so I think that’s the best thing about when we run tempo, but at the end of the day we’ve still got to be able to execute.”

The Bruins have mostly done just that, their offense generating 506 yards per game to rank No. 16 nationally.

And finally

Colorado does lead the nation in something. The Buffaloes have not given up any yardage on kickoff returns this season.

None have been brought back.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.